Hollywood Gothique
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Hollywood Fringe Review: Ghosts Can’t Pay Rent

An amusing depiction of living with an invisible roommate who can’t share expenses and won’t share her friend.

Here is an amusing play about the difficulties of living with a free-loading roommate in Los Angeles – although, in this case, the freeloader has an excuse because, being dead, she is obviously off the hook when it comes to paying expenses. Ghosts Can’t Pay Rent milks enjoyable laughs from the situation of living with a ghost who can open doors, rearrange furniture, and creak floorboards in order to scare away potential roommates, then nimbly switches to deeper territory when exploring her motivations not only for remaining earthbound but also for being so protective of the one person she allows to live in the apartment she is haunting. The overall affect is quite amusing, though audience members will probably guess at least some of the revelations coming when the play turns more serious in its second half.

Ghosts Can’t Pay Rent opens with Olive (Nala Clophus) returning home to find her apartment in disarray, clothes littered everywhere and a folding chair carefully place atop a small work table. Her ghostly roommate, Cas (Fernanda Vilela), has apparently spent the afternoon scaring away the most recent person to share rent, leaving Olive footing a bill she cannot afford on her salary. Cas is unperturbed while enumerating reasons why this roommate, along with all the previous ones, was unworthy, but Cas is nearing the end of her rope financially, even though she clearly enjoys hanging out with Cas (who is invisible to everyone but her). Still, if Cas wants her living friend to remain, she will have eventually have to tolerate a third wheel in their relationship.


Ghosts Can't Pay Rent Review
The play opens with the apartment in disarray from a successful effort to scare away the most recent roommate (note folding chair on table).

Things get interesting when the next applicant, Priya (Seneca Avelar) turns out to be a witch – or, more precisely, a Wiccan – who is fascinated by the idea of sharing an apartment with a ghost. Unlike Olive, who has been content to stay home with Cas watching television, Priya is a party girl who enjoys West Hollywood nightclubs; soon, she is convincing Olive to tag along, sowing seeds of jealousy in Cas. It does not take long to figure out that this is precisely the reason Cas has been scaring away Olive’s previous roommates: Cas does not want to share her with anyone, and her interest in Olive goes beyond sitting through reruns of Law & Order. (The point is underlined by a mysteriously locked door, which turns out to lead to a closet – an obvious metaphor.)

In the play’s second half, Priya’s research reveals details of Cas’s life and death that she has been reluctant to admit, leading to some emotional confrontations that turn the story toward tragedy. (One interesting aspect is that Cas’s earthbound afterlife exile is mostly self-imposed – a decision to remain behind until she can experience things not allowed during her lifetime.)

It’s pretty engaging, but having flipped the script from comedy to tragedy, the play then tags on a happy ending – which was probably the right decision, but as rendered here it feels a little too easy, not quite fully earned. (As the play moves into its final section, Priya is inexplicably able to see Cas, and even more inexplicably, both Priya and Olive are able to physically touch the previously intangible ghost during the finale.)

Perhaps these are metaphors for marginalized people feeling invisible until their identities are validated by loving friends willing to make emotional connections, but this kind of breakthrough is not so easy in real life, and the supernatural element adds a further complication: ultimately, this is still a ghost story in which a main character lacks a physical body, leaving us to wonder exactly how this trio is going to work out after the curtain falls.

Ghosts Can't Pay Rent rating

Rating Scale

1 – Avoid
2 – Not all bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See

Ghosts Can’t Pay Rent is an amusing depiction of the difficulties of living with an invisible roommate who scares away living roommates capable of sharing expenses. The reasons behind the haunting take the story into more serious emotional territory, yielding some moving pathos, but the happy ending, though welcome, feels a little too easy.

Credits: MB Stage Productions

  • Produced by Brooke Harbaugh, Jared Pixler, and Park Lytle
  • Directed by Bennett Cousins
  • Written by Sarah Ruttan
  • Scenic Design: David Evan Stolworthy
  • Stage Manager: Alysia Michelle Cruz, Cassy Sottile
  • Prop Master: Makenna Tynan
  • Costume, Hair & Makeup: Katie Lynn
  • Lighting: Lacey Shaw
  • Sound Design: Kensaku Shinohara



  • Seneca Avelar as Priya
  • Fernanda Vilela as Cas
  • Nala Clophus as Olive


Ghosts Can’t Pay Rent continues at Actors Company Open Space Theatre as part of the 2023 Hollywood Fringe Fest. Get more info here.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.